Millionaire who paid for divorce with £2.5m scam loses bid for freedom

‘Inadequate’ millionaire who paid for his divorce with £2.5m fraud scam after his wife dumped him for footballer Cesc Fabregas fails in bid to be released from jail

  • Elie Taktouk, 47, endured a high-profile divorce from model Daniella Semaan
  • Following their divorce, Taktouk embarked on a sustained campaign of fraud
  • He conned investors out of cash he then used for legal costs, rent and a Porsche 
  • Taktouk convicted of nine counts of fraud at Southwark Crown Court last year
  • He has failed in Court of Appeal bid appeal for freedom after arguments refuted

A millionaire who paid for his divorce with a £2.5million fraud scam after his wife left him for former Arsenal and Chelsea footballer Cesc Fabregas has failed in a bid to be released from prison.

Elie Taktouk, 47, endured a traumatic and high-profile divorce from Lebanese model Daniella Semaan, also 47, after she left dumped for the former Spain international in 2011.

Following their split, he embarked on a sustained campaign of fraud, conning property investors out of cash which he subsequently spent on legal costs, rent, school fees and to buy a Porsche between February 12, 2015 and August 1, 2017.

Taktouk maintained he was innocent, but was convicted of eight counts of fraud and two of using a false instrument at Southwark Crown Court in September last year. 

He was jailed for seven years, though did not turn up to his sentencing hearing after suffering a breakdown that culminated in what the court heard was a ‘real and very serious attempt to take his own life’.

Taktouk took his case to the Court of Appeal after his legal team claimed his convictions were ‘unsafe’ and that the seven-year sentence was too long.

However, three judges, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, have rejected his argument, citing that they have ‘no merit’. It means Taktouk must complete his prison sentence.

Elie Taktouk (pictured outside court following a divorce hearing in 2015) embarked on a on a sustained campaign of fraud following the high-profile split

Daniella Semaan pictured outside the High Court following a divorce hearing in 2015. She later married footballer Cesc Fabregas

Former Chelsea and Arsenal star Fabregas pictured with Mrs Semaan at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco in February 2019

A trial last year heard how Taktouk married Miss Semaan in Lebanon in 1998, but they split 13 years later when she left him for Fabregas, now 35.

As part of their divorce, Taktouk was ordered to pay £1.4m and lost their £5.5m family home in Belgravia after failing to block the sale of the property at the Court of Appeal.

The Grade-II listed property, just yards from Buckingham Palace, had been put up for sale in 2013 so Taktouk could provide cash in the divorce settlement with his ex-wife.

He disregarded court orders barring him from buying plane tickets out of the country and obstructed an investigation into his assets.

A court heard Taktouk also relied upon sham documents purporting to show he did not own a property in London during his matrimonial proceedings.

He was jailed for seven months in July last year for ignoring court orders. 

Taktouk’s fraud convictions came following a following a private prosecution brought by real estate developer Adrian Noel and his father Frank Noel – both from a wealthy Swiss family.

It related to the renovation of a £7.75m apartment in Ennismore Gardens, Knightsbridge, between 2015 and 2017.

The property was purchased using bridging finance, with half of the required cash portion stumped up by father-and-son investors,  who had been introduced to Taktouk by an intermediary.

The apartment was to be redeveloped and sold on at a profit, but the project encountered a string of problems. 

Instead of developing the property, project manager Taktouk used the Noels’ money to fund his luxurious lifestyle, splashing out on exclusive clubs, cars, hotels, shopping trips and restaurants.

Court documents showed he spent more than £20,000 on private school fees, bought a £28,000 Porsche, and rented a £21,000-a-month Kensington property.

Taktouk – who boasted during his three-week trial that his family was worth £150 million – also treated himself to shopping trips in Harrods, and bought Georgio Armani clothes and expensive furniture. 

He used forged documents and faked invoices, and misled them about the health of the project, telling them a standard mortgage had been obtained, rather than bridging finance which ran up £61,000-a-month in interest. 

Taktouk married Lebanese model Daniella Semann (left) in 1998 but they split 13 years later when she left him for the former Arsenal and Chelsea star (right)

Taktouk also lost his former family home in Belgravia (above) to Mrs Semaan and Fabregas after failing to block the £5.5million sale of the flat to the footballer at the Court of Appeal

After becoming suspicious, the investors paid for an investigation into Taktouk’s dealings, resulting in a private prosecution being brought and him being jailed last year.

The apartment was eventually sold for only £5.5m at auction – with the Noels losing the £2.5m they had invested.

But Taktouk’s lawyers argued that the prosecution should have been stopped because it was an ‘abuse of process’.

They claimed the motivation for the prosecution had been to pressurise Taktouk’s rich father to give them their money to save his son from jail.

Taktouk’s legal team also argued that it was wrong to jail him for seven years, claiming the sentencing judge had failed to appreciate his personal mitigation, which included his personal character and mental health issues.

But Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, sitting with Mr Justice Wall and Judge Mark Lucraft QC in the Court of Appeal, rejected the conviction challenge and upheld the length of Taktouk’s sentence.

He told the court that the sentencing judge at Southwark Crown Court had taken into account that Taktouk is ‘inadequate and submissive in aspects of his character’.

Lord Justice Stuart-Smith added: ‘The judge expressly took personality and mental health into account when assessing his culpability. It is unarguable that he paid no attention to his personal mitigation.

‘The judge gave him the benefit of any doubt and sentenced on the basis that his mental health issues might be worse then the evidence suggested.

‘In our judgment, the sentence imposed by the judge was not manifestly excessive and shows no error of principle.

‘It was comfortably within the range that was open to the judge.’

His appeal applications were refused.

Source: Read Full Article